Fit Foodie: Raw food movement, yum or hum?

As a person fascinated with food, the cooking of said food and especially eating it, I have a special curiosity for the raw food movement. I mean, I can appreciate raw food. I like carrots, and I prefer them uncooked. Sushi is one of my favorite foods and I adore carpaccio and briney succulent oysters are one of my favorite treats.  But to eat raw food only?

Yet, like every one else who loves food, I struggle to balance the indulgent joy of flavorful, well prepared food with its effects on my waistline. It isn’t that I considered raw food as a permanent lifestyle, more that I wondered if it could be part of my lifestyle. Immediately, I got the idea that you don’t “do it raw” part-time. You either are or you aren’t. “Raw-ers” are as fervent as any religious zealot, this is deadly serious business. Sort of a jihadist of cooking.  A quick Google search of “humor + raw food” turns up sites not at all associated with either; I’ll let your mind wander as to what it DOES pull up.  Still. I was curious.

So, I did some homework on this food movement. The first thing I noticed was why are there so many raw food “cooking sites”? I mean, isn’t raw food BY DEFINITION uncooked? Maybe they should just call it raw food preparation? Is that fair? Can we agree that raw food is NOT cooking? The modern movement began in the 1930’s in Paris when Dr. Paul Kouchakoff concluded that cooked foods causes our white blood cell count to spike, suggesting that the body is essentially fighting off an “invasion”. I have had some cooked foods that could be considered an invasion, but I personally don’t think its fair to characterize ALL cooked food that way. But, who am I to argue with the good doctor? All was quiet on the raw food home front until 1966 when the book  “Raw Eating” (A. Hovannessian) was published in Iran. The book advocated a raw lifestyle as a way to heal the body. In America, The Hippocrates Institute began advocating for a enzyme-free  diet, with particular emphasis on wheat grass (so THAT’S who we have to blame!). In the late 70’s the raw food preparation book Survival into the 21st Century (Viktoras Kulvinskas) and then The New Raw Energy (Leslie Kenton) in 1984 continued the movement, throughout the 80’s and ’90’s the movement continued to get a lot of press and surely for some during that time, it was the latest fad.

Today, whether because of the niche restaurants trend or the love of raw food, there are an increasing number of raw preparation restaurants. Not surprisingly, there aren’t any listed on that site in Iowa. One recipe I found,  Caliente Enchiladas (anyone else see the irony in that title?) suggests that the main reason raw food restaurants are a growing trend is out of the sheer number of ingredients needed to prepare raw food. I mean, WOW. That is SOME prep work. I like to cook Asian food and don’t need that many ingredients for most my dishes.

But popular raw food chefs like Juliano and Chad Sarno are doing their best to convert even the most skeptical foodies. One look at some of the food on Chad’s website and I am as inspired by this food as I am by any other site to get up and start cooking..er, I mean PREPARING.

What about you? Any other foodies out there who participate in a “raw food” lifestyle. Even occasionally?

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About Tara DeWitt Coomans

An aspiring cook and an accomplished eater, Tara is inspired by the world around her and the food on her plate. "When you can't jump on a plane and take a vacation to an exotic destination, chances are you can whip up a dish or go to a restaurant that will take you there." says Tara. She often eats out at a restaurant after trying to accomplish a given dish at home. None the less, she enjoys food and what it says about the human experience. Tara is a full-time freelance writer and blogger. She specializes in writing about food, cooking and travel. You can find her in the kitchen, on the plane or at her computer.